World Cup dreams dashed by a draw

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Norwegian hopes of qualifying for World Cup football (soccer) action next summer all but faded into oblivion after a match between the national teams for Norway and Macedonia ended in a score of 0-0. That means Norway’s chances for World Cup play are probably zero as well.

Football commentators and officials had noted that Norway’s top players needed at least three points to move forward in the World Cup qualification process. Last night’s score left them with nothing.

There can always be a miracle or two along the way, of course. Norway’s team could beat The Netherlands’ international powerhouse at the next World Cup qualifier in Rotterdam on Wednesday. Even the most die-hard fans concede that’s unlikely.

The problem is that Norway’s squad hadn’t won any any of its earlier matches against the four other countries in its qualifying group (The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland and Macedonia) before coach Aage Hareide threw in the towel last winter and the legendary Egil “Drillo” Olsen took over. Olsen, who took Norway’s squad to the World Cup back in 1994, rallied hopes and the squad even beat Germany earlier this year, but that was a “friendly” match and didn’t count in the World Cup race.

Norway could recover and win every match left in its qualifying round. After the looming Dutch challenge, Norway must face Scotland again at home in Oslo on August 12. Then the squad travels to Reykjavik for a match against Iceland on September 5 and then they need to kick off against Macedonia again at home in Oslo on September 9.

One of Norway’s few international star players, John Carew, told reporters after the disappointing match in Skopje Saturday night that he still thinks Norway has a chance. “We’ve made things very difficult for ourselves now,” Carew, who missed a scoring chance himself, told newspaper Aftenposten . “I still think we can be number-two in our group even with a loss against The Netherlands, but then we’ll have to win the last three matches.”

Coach Olsen said he no explanation for the lack of scoring on the Macedonian field Saturday evening. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t win, since we met a team that’s not very good,” he said after the match. “I really don’t have any explanation as to why we weren’t decisive in this, and that’s not very good either.”